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Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free

Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free: How to Decrease Cost and Increase Quality at American Universities

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free
    Book Description:

    Universities tend to be judged by the test scores of their incoming students and not on what students actually learn once they attend these institutions. While shared tests and surveys have been developed, most schools refuse to publish the results. Instead, they allow such publications asU.S. News & World Reportto define educational quality. In order to raise their status in these rankings, institutions pour money into new facilities and extracurricular activities while underfunding their educational programs.InWhy Public Higher Education Should Be Free, Robert Samuels argues that many institutions of higher education squander funds and mislead the public about such things as average class size, faculty-to-student ratios, number of faculty with PhDs, and other indicators of educational quality. Parents and students seem to have little knowledge of how colleges and universities have been restructured over the past thirty years.Samuels shows how research universities have begun to function as giant investment banks or hedge funds that spend money on athletics and administration while increasing tuition costs and actually lowering the quality of undergraduate education. In order to fight higher costs and lower quality, Samuels suggests, universities must reallocate these misused funds and concentrate on their core mission of instruction and related research.Throughout the book, Samuels argues that the future of our economy and democracy rests on our ability to train students to be thoughtful participants in the production and analysis of knowledge. If leading universities serve only to grant credentials and prestige, our society will suffer irrevocable harm. Presenting the problem of how universities make and spend money, Samuels provides solutions to make these important institutions less expensive and more vital. By using current resources in a more effective manner, we could even, he contends, make all public higher education free.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6125-7
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1 Why Tuition Goes Up and Quality Goes Down at American Research Universities
    (pp. 1-13)

    Every year, tuition at American colleges and universities goes up, but virtually no one seems to know why. In fact, the average cost of higher education in the United States increases at twice the rate of inflation, and by going up 8 percent each year, the cost of tuition doubles every nine years.¹ Meanwhile, educational institutions claim that they are losing money and that they have to rely increasingly on large lecture classes and inexpensive, untenured faculty in order to remain afloat.² In other words, the cost is going up, but the money spent on undergraduate education is going down....

  5. 2 Where the Money Goes in Research Universities
    (pp. 14-25)

    To explain why costs go up at American research universities, this chapter will look into how these institutions spend their money. Since very few people have ever examined university budgets in a detailed and careful way, it has been easy for schools to claim that tuition never covers the true cost of education. However, if we look closely at the numbers, we shall see that there is little relation between what universities charge for tuition and what they spend on students. Moreover, even though many of the top universities have continued to increase their total revenue, most of them have...

  6. 3 Shortchanging Instruction at Research Universities, and Why Students Don’t Complain
    (pp. 26-42)

    The previous two chapters have described how research universities have been decreasing their spending on direct instructional activities, while they increase their expenditures in other areas. In order to examine how these reductions in instructional budgets affect the education provided by these institutions, this chapter will examine the changing nature of student learning and faculty teaching and will show how the defunding of undergraduate education has resulted in a loss of educational quality. Moreover, I will argue that students at selective research universities do not complain about the shortchanging of instruction because higher education has now become mostly a means...

  7. 4 The Role of the Faculty and Graduate Students in Changing Universities
    (pp. 43-57)

    Although some people believe that universities are now controlled by lazy liberal professors who indoctrinate their students into left-wing ideologies, the reality is that professors at research universities have lost much of their power, and they now represent a small minority of the employees at these institutions. Moreover, as universities seek to cut educational costs by relying on more part-time faculty, funding is moved from undergraduate instructional budgets to other, more costly endeavors. It is true that some star professors are able to compete as free agents for high salaries and low course loads, but most professors have seen their...

  8. 5 The Rise of the Administrative Class
    (pp. 58-73)

    In the summer of 2000, I was sitting at a bargaining table with ten university administrators, discussing the different ways of assessing the quality of teachers in the University of California system. I started to get frustrated because the conversation was going nowhere, but then I realized that no one on the other side of the table had ever taught or had studied teaching in their life. It was at this point that I began to discover the true absurdity of a research university: most of the people employed by these important higher education institutions have no background or training...

  9. 6 The University as Hedge Fund
    (pp. 74-87)

    In the winter of 2009, some of the most prestigious private and public research universities in the United States announced that they would have to scale back class offerings, increase class sizes, limit the hiring of new faculty, and restructure academic programs. The main reason for these changes was that the schools had lost billions of dollars in their endowments due to the global financial meltdown. In other words, the wealthiest educational institutions in the world were now saying that they were poor, and the main reason for their poverty was that they had invested and lost a large part...

  10. 7 The High Cost of Research
    (pp. 88-99)

    American research universities have played an essential role in the world economy and the development of many important new technologies and medical innovations. In fact, without the research done at these institutions, we probably would not have the Internet, cellphones, most vaccines, and many other inventions that make our lives easier and more sustainable. However, this investment in research comes at a large cost, and one of the main reasons why tuition goes up and instructional quality goes down in higher education is that externally funded research changes the priorities at these institutions. Moreover, the way that research is supported...

  11. 8 Technology to the Rescue?
    (pp. 100-114)

    I am sitting on an Amtrak train trying to finish reading a novel, but I cannot concentrate because I am surrounded by people speaking—no, yelling—into their cellphones. Right behind me is a young college student who has two papers due the next day, one in history and one in English. I know this because she has called at least five different people to talk about how much work she has to do and how she will never finish it in time. I want to turn around and suggest to her that if she just got off the phone,...

  12. 9 Making All Public Higher Education Free
    (pp. 115-129)

    Throughout this book, I have pointed out a series of counterintuitive paradoxes. It seems that the more money research universities spend, the higher their tuition and the lower their quality of instruction. One would think that raising the price would improve the education, but as I have shown, due to the lack of concern for instructional quality, that is not the case. Moreover, research universities now often function like investment banks, and one of their central concerns is to drive down labor costs while they increase the compensation of administrators and star faculty. I have also argued that one reason...

  13. 10 Educating Students for a Multicultural Democracy
    (pp. 130-150)

    Currently, there are two major movements in education around the globe: increased stress on efficiency and standardized testing, and a growing focus on teaching the whole student and covering a large variety of subject matter. Driving much of the first movement is the idea that education’s only purpose is to prepare a student for a future job in knowledge economy; the second movement is centered on helping students become better citizens and thinkers. In the case of higher education, extreme examples of these two movements can be found in for-profit online universities and non-profit honors colleges. Students at for-profits pay...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 151-166)
    (pp. 167-176)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 177-178)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-180)